LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, ruled out to pitch Sunday's domestic opener for Los Angeles against the San Diego Padres, played catch Friday and told manager Don Mattingly he no longer feels pain in his upper back.
Kershaw's improvement puts the left-hander on track to pitch next Friday at Dodger Stadium in the team's home opener.
"We've taken a little step forward," Mattingly said. "I'm not saying that says a whole lot at this point, but it does mean that we continue on with the process of moving forward."
If Kershaw can't pitch Friday, Mattingly said his replacement might be Josh Beckett, who is eligible to come off the disabled list that day.
"We feel like he's ready to pitch," Mattingly said of Beckett. "For the most part, we'd prefer him to be built up a little further, but if he had to, he's going to be a guy who, by the time he is eligible, could help us."
Hyun-Jin Ryu, who had been questionable after tearing a toenail in his first start Sunday in Australia, will pitch the Dodgers' U.S. opener this Sunday night in San Diego.
Ryu threw a 30-pitch bullpen session before Friday's game and said he felt no further pain in his right foot.
"I feel OK," Ryu said through a Korean reporter who acted as his interpreter.
Ryu will pitch Sunday, Zack Greinke will go Tuesday and Dan Haren will pitch Wednesday. The Dodgers are off Monday, a rare open date on the road created when ESPN chose these teams for the Sunday night game.
The Dodgers were hoping they wouldn't need Beckett until mid-April, thanks to off days, and could give him time to build up his arm strength. But with Kershaw injured, Beckett could be pressed into duty.
Kershaw will play catch again Saturday at a higher intensity. After that, the Dodgers will decide when he'll return to their rotation.
"The one thing to keep in mind is we're not going to let him go out there unless he's 100 percent," Mattingly said.